Katie Polakowski

As a designer, it can be difficult to cut through the clutter with creative, innovative ideas that are practical yet different. Yet, ultimately, it’s this challenge that Katie Polakowski says makes her career “most interesting.

 She works in The Park, an independent design and production studio for the advertising agency, GTB (formerly Team Detroit).

“I’ve always been taught to embrace creative thinking and constantly challenge what is expected,” said Polakowski. “That is what creates the most interesting and fulfilling work. I’ve found, especially in advertising, that this rings true. Clients are always looking for something new and innovative, and it’s important to me that the work I create is still beautiful and engaging.

“Because of my illustration background, I tend to approach and think about things differently than other designers, which helps my work stand out. Along with this, I use the skills I learned at CCS in all of my work. I think that my illustration style and aesthetic tends to show through because I am able to combine my digital and traditional skills together with my painting and textile background.”

The design studio where Polakowski works, The Park, serves as GTB’s main creative resource. Besides handling the branding for the agency’s main client, Ford Motor Company, her team does a variety of projects involving branding, typography, data visualization and illustration.

“I enjoy working in a design studio because it gives me the opportunity to work on a variety of projects,” she said. “In the past year, I’ve tackled everything from package design for Motorcraft, textile and apparel design for Ford’s Warriors in Pink clothing line, to paintings and custom art for Ford Motor Company. I’ve also worked on creating the look and feel for major sales campaigns, designed infographic illustrations, countless logo designs, design work for the DIA, and video storyboarding and applying my pattern designs to interior spaces. This variety of work allows for the opportunity to incorporate my illustration and textile background into all of my design work on a daily basis.”

As part of a recent project, Polakowski designed the artwork for Ford Motor Company’s FordPass Operation Center. Since she had done textile and pattern design work for The Park, she was asked to create large custom art for the FordPass building. The project evolved into a series of graphic patterns, along with patterned illustrations, inspired by the FordPass app itself. All were either giant full wall graphics or large framed pieces of art. After the installation, other Ford offices have since bought the artwork, including Ford offices in Shanghai.

“This project led to my significant role in the FordPass project (a Smart Mobility App),” explained Polakowski. “Because the art for this building was custom made for Ford Motor Company and loved by the company, they are now being used as the main style for the recently launched FordPass app. I was asked to create custom sets of pattern designs that are being used for the style and branding of the app, website, and all other assets for the program, along with being implemented in the new FordHubs worldwide.”

Polakowski is also currently working on creating art installations and designs for the interior space and window displays for Ford Motor Company’s New York Hub, scheduled to open later this year (2016) in the Westfield World Trade Center. This has given her the opportunity to apply her textile designs (which have become the springboard for the entire look and feel of the Hub) to a physical space.

“In the past, most of my pattern designs were created for apparel or packaging,” she said. “This project has given me the opportunity to work with my pattern designs at a much larger scale in an interactive space. The New York FordHub design will then influence and be applied to the Hubs in Shanghai, London, and San Francisco.”

As part of another project, Polakowski was assigned to a design team tasked with a rebranding of the City of Detroit. After extensive research, hundreds of logo variations and design development, the mayor of Detroit and his team chose her logo design. From there, she developed the branding and guidelines for the city, which involved creating a logo system, new city signage (including welcome and park signs) and applying the logo to the city vehicles (police, ambulances and buses). At the same time, the City of Detroit and its police department were developing a new program called Project Green Light. She designed the logo, signage, and billboards for this program as well.

“Ever since I was little, I have enjoyed drawing, painting, and all types of art, so making a living as an artist has always been my goal,” Polakowski said. “If you are determined and willing to work hard, you can be successful doing what you are passionate about.”

In addition to her full-time job, Polakowski also collaborates with clients on freelance projects, ranging from custom illustrations and book covers to portraiture and various other design work. To check out more of her work, visit kepolakowski.com.

  • Illustration
  • GTB | The Park
  • Designer
  • 2015

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